The writer is ‘work in progress’ (compare images). He was born within the shadow of what is called, in the tourist brochures, ‘Nottingham Castle’ (after the real castle was sensibly burned to the ground by the dispossessed) and is still driven by the myth of Robin Hood - the ‘green man’ as opposed to our present over-technological, over-scientific, media, military and consumerism-led, lawyer-controlled society. He maintains a goodly collection of axes to grind and sharpens them regularly.
As a child of around 8 years of age, he was sent to Sunday School for some time, but soon realized that what he was being told as ‘the truth’ was not right. Of course, he didn’t have the words to describe this - it was more an inner feeling, an intuition, so he rebelled for the first time and refused to go any more. This started a life-long search for ‘truth’.
He survived a Grammar School ‘education’ (most of the scars don’t show) by reading much of the content of the local library and this experience made him want to be a writer (see image). Appalled by constantly being told by his ‘masters’, ‘You’re not here to think.’ he rebelled for the second time and left.
He trained in electrical engineering, became a householder, worked hard and long until he felt his self fading away. After too many years of this, he eased himself into thinking and writing by downgrading his consumer-mindless existence, assisted by the policies of the ‘Greed is good for you’ Thatcher government and moved into a squat in Sheffield for a while. During this transitional period, in the late 1970s - early 1980s (preMayle era), he visited many regions of France, staying in a medieval commune in Lot before it became popular with bankers, insurance-brokers and other similarly unethical people.
As a mature student at university, he gained a BA(Hons) in english language and literature and an MA in film studies. He also studied philosophy, psychology and group dynamics - especially groups with power. His personal writing tutors were Jane Rogers (Separate Tracks, Her Living Image, Mr Wroe's Virgins) and Barry Hines (see note below) (A Kestrel for a Knave, Looks and Smiles, The Gamekeeper, the films, Kes and Threads), who both encouraged him to continue writing. To support this habit he taught: creative writing, english grammar, linguistics, Shakespeare studies, poetry, drama, film-studies and he also chopped wood (and carrots), carried water, restored barns and roofs and did other odd jobs.
He was a member of a Buddhist group and still uses many of the more useful principles of Buddhism. He has read (among other things): the writings of Jiddu Krishnamurti; H. H. The Dalai Lama; Lao Tzu; Herodotus (which taught him a lot about human nature); David Bohm; E F Schumacher, Robert M Pirsig, Andrew Harvey. He has also read a lot about Sufism, Gnosticism and early Christianity (before it got organized) and also about the later, questionable, activities of the Wholy Roman Catholic church and he still feels somewhat saddened that his mother’s family had to leave France as part of the Catholic church’s violent purge of ‘heretics’ (the unorganizable) a few hundred years ago. Writers have exceedingly long memories.
He has traveled around Cyprus (‘What am I doing here?’), lived at and worked to support the Findhorn Foundation in the Highlands of Scotland (‘What was I doing there?’), stayed in France and traveled around a lot there and also traveled extensively around Turkey with his new partner.
He has spent much of his life traveling around, moving from place to place, learning something new in every location and has recently settled in a quiet and remote area of England, which he calls ‘home for the time being’. He owns very little and writes and thinks about the human condition - what makes us what we are and how we are conditioned by our environment be it social, political, ‘spiritual’, natural or metaphysical. He no longer reads newspapers and hasn’t owned a television since the last century. He reads, observes and listens a lot and practices seeing and thinking for himself which, he believes, is something that would make the world a much better place - if only more people would try it.
He is not really sure that this will happen.
I ask myself this every time I start to write. Writing is not easy; it is hard work but I write because I have the itch and scrivening is how I scratch it. I see the house burning down and no-one is bothering.
Most people want to read something to make them feel better - a palliative - while society sinks into a mire of evil corporate greed and profit, military and government aggression and control. Murderous wars are fought for oil and world domination, the unintelligent puppet-politicians behave stupidly for egocentric, short-term gain and fame - time after time after time, etc., etc., and I ask myself,
I guess that is why I write and in my fiction, I try to make the lurking horror humorous along the way but none of us are waving; we are all drowning.
I was saddened to read of Barry Hine’s passing on the 18th from an article in the UK Guardian newspaper, written by Mark Hodgkinson and Tony Garnet. In it they describe his work and also his office at Sheffield Hallam University. His office was reached up a narrow flight of stairs over what was originally a stable and coach house when the English department on Collegiate Crescent was a private house. I remember it as they describe it in the Guardian article, small and sparsely furnished. He often brought his work to the office in an old briefcase. The welcome from Barry was always the same: quiet, reassuring, unpretentious and attentive. He was ready to help a struggling writer. I read his books which inspired me to write. I watched the film Kes quite a few times and also met him at a screening of the film Threads at Matlock Teacher Training college. He was quiet, unassuming but open and friendly to people interested in writing realistically about people.
Being Nottingham born and educated in Sheffield, I can identify with his characters and the stories that he wrote, in a way similar to other local writers such as DH Lawrence in his depiction of social conditions for the working class in Lady Chatterley’s Lover (which, to me, is more about the limited horizons of working class people than sex) and also Alan Sillitoe from Nottingham who wrote similar books about the limited lot of the working class man (A Man of His Time).
I remember Barry Hines as someone with something to say for the mainly unrecognised state of the common, working man, their suffering wives and their children. He was a writer who wasn’t afraid to say it as it was and as it still is. His quiet exterior cloaked a fierce determination and I’m pleased that he refused Disney’s sugar-coated, poison-pill of sentimentality. He wrote about life as it is; he had integrity and guts.